Panerai began making watches in Florence, Italy back in 1860, but it wasn’t until the 1930s that the firm produced its first wristwatch. By then its roots in Florence were as deep as those in Switzerland, where Panerai watches were produced.
The breakthrough for the company was an order for diving watches from the Italian Navy, for whom Panerai had been creating instruments of various types since the turn of the century. With a war coming on, the navy was keen to outfit its elite corps of frogmen with wristwatches.
Featuring a Rolex movement, the limited-edition Panerai Radiomir (only 300 were made) was designed for use by commandos and torpedo riders—frogmen who rode a slow-moving torpedo toward a target before attaching a timed mine to the underside of a ship and then riding away. The watches had a cushion-shaped case, a screw-down crown to keep water out of the movement, and oiled-leather straps that were long enough to be worn on the outside of a diving suit. Given their limited supply and the tough conditions they were subjected to, these watches are very highly prized by collectors today.
The watch took its name, Radiomir, from the luminous material that Panerai first developed in 1910. Made of zinc sulphide and radium bromide, Radiomir allowed the numbers and hands on a watch to be read in dark conditions. It was replaced in 1949 by Luminor, which glows thanks to the presence of tritium, a less-dangerous compound than radium bromide.
Throughout the 1950s and ’60s, Panerai continued to produce wristwatches for the Italian Navy in regular and destro (left-handed) versions. Some watches from this period were known as Trittico watches, thanks to their trio of features, which included a depth gauge.
Panerai also made Kampfschwimmer watches, some with so-called California dials (numbers on the bottom, Roman numerals on the top), for Germany’s only postwar commando unit. And in 1956, Panerai created a large-face Radiomir watch for the Egyptian Navy.
Panerai might have remained a military diving watch in the minds of the public had it not been for Sylvester Stallone, who, in 1995, purchased a Luminor while on location in Italy. Sales of the watches jumped after its debut in Stallone’s “Daylight,” and Sly even had some watches—dubbed Slytech—made with his signature engraved on the back. These he gave as gifts to friends, including fellow action hero Arnold Schwarzenegger.
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Recent News: Panerai Watches
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Corset's Christmas! Daisy Lowe and Ellie Goulding wear sexy underwear to the ...Daily Mail, December 10th
His distinct pink trousers were just in shot in the picture and he flashed off his expensive Panerai watch in order to display the time. Ellie Goulding, 26, was also rocking the underwear trend and looked stunning in a cropped black satin corset which...Read more
DFS Group unveils stunning Masters of Time exhibition in MacauMoodieReport, December 9th
Officine Panerai presents the Luminor Submersible 1950 3 Days Power Reserve Automatic Bronzo, a new Special Edition with decisively nautical associations and water resistance to 300m. According to the brand, “In the mind of every sailor, bronze ...Read more
Panerai special edition timepiecesOman Daily Observer, December 8th
MUSCAT — Officine Panerai paid tribute to Muscat with two new Special Edition watches, sold exclusively at the Panerai boutique located at the Royal Opera House in Muscat, Oman. Both of the watches are personalised with the same engraving on the back ...Read more
Venezia Panerai Exclusive Guide 2014Luxgallery, December 5th
Dopo Milano e Firenze, Officine Panerai ci racconta l'arte, la cultura, lo shopping, e ci svela gli hotel, i ristoranti e gli indirizzi segreti di una delle città più belle d'Italia e del mondo. La maison di orologi di lusso ha presentato la Venezia...Read more
Officine Panerai boutique opens at Opera GalleriaMuscat Daily, December 4th
“We are delighted to open the first Officine Panerai boutique in the country. The new flagship store delivers a range of high precision luxury timepieces that combine Swiss technical excellence and exclusive Italian design.The opening of this store...Read more
Panerai 2014 PAM 557 Luminor 1950 Destro 3 Days WatchEmag.co.uk, December 4th
Here's an early look at a standout piece from Panerai's 2014 collection, the Luminor 1950 Destro 3 Days, which fans of the brand will recognize as essentially a left-handed version of the PAM 372 from 2011. Along with a left-handed crown — a common...Read more
SIHH 2014: Panerai PAM 557 Luminor 1950 Destro 3 DaysPerpetuelle.com (blog), December 1st
Here's the first “reveal” from the Panerai 2014 collection (to be officially unveiled Jan 2014). This Luminor 1950 Left-handed (or “Destro”) 3 Days bears reference PAM557 and is equipped with the in-house P.3000 movement. It has a 47mm steel case with ...Read more
Eilean's new era: Panerai's restored yachtwallpaper.com, November 14th
Eilean's new era: Panerai's restored yacht. lifestyle / 14 Nov 2013 /. By Caragh McKay. Originally built in 1936, the William Fife-made yacht Eilean was acquired by Officine Panerai in 2007 and restored to full ocean-going glory in 2009. It served as...Read more